Sumpteretc's Blog

What's on my mind at the moment

Month: July, 2008

Post-Election Violence Continues

Five people have been killed and 328, including 108 servicemen, have been injured in demonstrations in Ulanbaatar, Mongolia. Two of the five dead were shot and another died of smoke inhalation inside the MPRP headquarters. A Japanese journalist was among the injured. Around 700 protesters have been detained, 90% of them younger than 35. About 1,500 security forces, including 200 soliders, are patrolling the streets of the capital.

This is Mongolia’s first ever state of emergency. In addition to the curfew enacted from 10 pm to 8 am for four days, the central parts of the city have been cordoned off. Alcohol sales have also been banned, and only state-owned TV stations are being permitted to broadcast. The city has largely calmed. Some roads are still barricaded, but business have opened and public transport is running.

The US embassy has expressed deep concern and has urged both parties to work together to remain a bastion of democracy in Central Asia. The justice department has reported that opposition forces are planning large demonstrations after the curfew is lifted and insists that those protests will also be suppressed. The parliament is to meet in an emergency session today to discuss the crisis.

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State of Emergency

As violent protests have continued to swell in Mongolia, the government has announced a four-day state of emergency. Shots were fired as troops moved into the capital to enforce the curfew, which will last until Friday evening. Anyone on the streets after 10 pm without documentation may be arrested.

Rioters were looting art galleries and stealing televisions from government offices. Others were vandalizing and torching cars in the neighborhood, but activity died down when the president announced the curfew. As many as 30 police officers and 25 civilians have been hospitalized.

President Enkhbayar did meet with the prime minister and the opposition leaders urging restraint. Following this meeting, Prime Minister S. Bayar leveled blame for the incidents pointedly at the leader of the Democratic Party.

Violent Protests Follow Mongolian Election

What had been a relatively peaceful election process in Mongolia has now shown some signs of violence. In mid-afternoon, roughly 6,000 protesters, mostly young males from the Mongolian Democratic Party, alleging voter fraud, clashed with police outside the headquarters of the General Election Commission and the MPRP. Protesters threw stones at the buildings and at the police in riot gear. Some also pushed into the election offices and demanded the resignation of officials. Finally, protesters set fire to the MPRP headquarters and three nearby cars. They also entered a duty-free shop and began throwing bottles at the fire. When fire fighters tried to reach the scene, the demonstrators turned their rock-throwing activities toward the firetrucks. Firefighters managed to control the fire, but protesters continued to clash with the military and police, who retaliated with rocks, water cannons, rubber bullets and teargas. Several protesters sported bloody faces, but the riots were still in progress as night fell.

The protests originally centered around two districts of the capital won by the MPRP but contested by the Civic Movement Party. Later, though, the DP joined the demonstrations, questioning the entire outcome of the election. The latest results suggest that the MPRP has garnered 46 of the seats in the State Great Khural, the DP 26, an independent and a minor party each 1, with 2 seats still undetermined. No official results have been announced, and election commission officials have declared that claims being made by the MPRP are premature.

The leader of the DP, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, also announced that he would not accept the projected outcome: “We do not need these results. No one needs these kinds of results, and they will be corrected in accordance with the law.” Allegations center around suggestions that the MPRP controlled polling stations by appointing party members as directors. The DP plans to present details of election fraud, which may further delay the announcement of official results.

President Enkhbayar has called for investigation into the allegations of voter fraud but has denounced the use of illegal actions in expressing protest. The President and the Prime Minister plan to meet with the leaders of the dissenting groups.